“I’ve been making music for ages, these lot have been making music for ages. I’ve been doing shows up and down for the last five years, we’re with it, we know exactly what’s happening and we’re excited to bring a new more mature trio to the world.” An elated Dappy tells me prior to the groups comeback single dropping. The group was a phenomenon during their first stint together, taking UK youth culture by storm. Now, they’re hoping to grip the nation once again. “We wanna show you what songs and what concepts we can come up with now. It’s all about connecting. I know with us three there’s so many different ways we can connect and that’s what N-Dubz is all about.”
For many of us, Dappy, Tulisa and Fazer were a staple in our childhood. It was the first time mainstream music in the UK really managed to capture the attention of the youth across the country. No longer were we forced to sit and listen to the squeaky clean tunes of late noughties pop stars. Now, the group has announced a reunion tour alongside a new single for the first time in over a decade. The arena tour, which sensationally sold out in only three minutes (additional dates have been announced) will span across 16 dates in November this year. Their new single ‘Charmer’ features the group taking inspiration from modern UK rap styles with autotune soaked melodies over a breezy instrumental. While some fans might have wished they stuck to the N-Dubz sound we all knew growing up, it’s refreshing to see them take risks and keep up with the era of music we now live in.
Here, HUNGER speaks to the group about recapturing the magic of N-Dubz, their influence on UK culture and awards show snubs.
Chris: Was there something in particular, or a moment that made you guys want to do a reunion?
Tulisa: Not really, no, it was something that we always talked about doing and wanted to do but then everything with COVID kind of stopped all that. We didn’t know what was gonna happen, how long it would take, or if we would be performing to people in bubbles. Luckily two years on the tickets are on sale and they’re selling out. It’s just mad to think that we’re going to be in an arena. I don’t think the industry thought we’d get back to this place so quickly.
Chris: your new single will be released tonight, are you guys nervous about the reaction it might get?
Tulisa: So nervous! We’re sat around in a hotel bar and I’m so tempted [to have a drink] and it’s like what, 1pm? I just want to have one little beer right now because I’m really excited, just absolutely buzzing and overwhelmed. I can’t wait. To think that in a few hours everythings going to change again, every day something new is happening and in a few hours it’s happening again.
Chris: Have you noticed any differences in your own and each other’s creative processes?
Tulisa: It’s kind of like riding a bike, the magic is still the same but I’d say the only difference is we’ve become stronger versions of ourselves and more refined characters. We all know what we want to bring to the group and what we want it to sound like.
Fazer: There’s definitely a lot more experience.
Tulisa: A lot more compromise too but it makes it even greater. We all want the same thing, which is greatness.
Chris: Has it been difficult having so many questions about N-Dubz over the years, did you feel like you didn’t get the love you deserved as individual artists?
Tulisa: I think that at the end of the day, we know what the magic of N-Dubz is and the power that comes with it. Rather than put a negative spin on it we just look at it like wow! When the three of us get together it’s more powerful than most things, nevermind what we do individually.
Dappy: We came up in a group and we all had a few little go’s at doing some solo stuff, I had three number ones by myself, Tulisa had a bunch of top 5’s and a number 1. We had a great run and now we just decided to come back and do what’s right. We were the only cool thing that was out at that time so now to come out amongst loads of other cool stuff is refreshing. It’s more intense in the studio now and we enjoy it ten times more and it’s 2022. We’ve got so much more to give. We’re a family so we’ve been making music, even when people thought we weren’t and we’ve been really good at making music together since we were babies so you can imagine the things we’re gonna come up with.
Chris: I always looked at N-Dubz as the first viral UK artists before virality was even a thing. Everyone at my school was listening to you guys, dressing like you, even my mum was listening to you. Did you guys realise how big of a moment that was while it was happening?
Tulisa: [laughs] I feel like this time around I’m registering the power of N-Dubz more. Back then we were just in it and we were crazy, just cracking along and doing it. We didn’t actually take a moment to look around and say “wow look what we’ve done”. I think it’s taken 10 years to show the effect it’s had and it’s even more powerful than before. We’re just looking at each other like “wow guys this is really something magical we’ve created”. I keep saying it feels like ‘Back to the Future’ right now and I’m in some crazy time machine.
Chris: Do you think you caused a shift in British music? Especially being able to have that mainstream appeal with the melodies but also having the ability to rap and use storytelling.
Tulisa: We’ll take that. We did change the game in many areas, 100%.
Dappy: We were the first to come up with the whole melodic rap sound which is cool, young and exciting but still very melodic and professionally done and written. We were the first to do those types of songs with content and great concepts that everyone could relate to. That’s why people are dying to come to the concerts now. 15 years later we just put on a tour and we might have to do three dates at the O2! [laughs] We’re just grateful that you guys are happy and that you’ve all got your ears open and your eyes open waiting to see what’s next from us.
Chris: What’s been the biggest shift in the industry since you were first coming up?
Tulisa: Internet driven, like you said funny enough back then our fan base were the ones who were just opening up onto the internet and downloading before it was legal. That’s why people were going to limewire and if we had the streaming services we do now, it would be a different ballgame. That’s why I’m really interested to see the single drop because it’s going to be the first N-Dubz song that people won’t illegally download. Imagine the streams we would’ve had back then.
Dappy: We’re dropping it without a visual too. We’re dropping a visual four days later and we will see now the new way of doing things. You know, releasing an audio letting it build because it’s music at the end of the day you don’t need a visual. It’s a very very strong song, it’s very grown, very sexy, very beautiful – it feels like N-Dubz bringing it back home.
Chris: What’s the main thing you’ve learnt over the years in your time away from the group?
Tulisa: Just stay true to yourself, your authentic self. But also being able to be strong but vulnerable. Everyone likes something they can relate to so being a bit more vulnerable is definitely something I’ve learnt.
Chris: Do you ever wish you came up in the streaming era or do you think it’s even more difficult now due to the saturation of it all?
Tulisa: I think it all comes down to a lot of things. Your own talent, luck, opportunity, timing, who you know, and who likes you. You know the whole thing where it’s 50% talent and 50% luck and it’s also political. For one person it could be really easy and another person could be just as talented and it could be really hard. There’s so many factors.
Dappy: You could be super talented, good bars, good melodies but if you don’t have any buzz around you or any form of hotness around you, that music may as well go in the bin these days. Those streams or views won’t add up if you’re not buzzing.
Tulisa: It’s like a game of chess.
Dappy: You’ve also got to brand yourself and be an established character, almost like an influencer these days. Off the back of that comes the music and releasing the precise singles that’ll catch but they’ve already resonated with you a week before because they’re doing something you’ve already seen. Then dropping a song off the back of that it’s just definitely gonna go. Anyone that’s got a warm vibe about them and their energy’s correct, for instance look at KSI look at what the guy’s done, how great is he? Now he can do concerts and they’re all singing his songs. Do you know how great that is? These are the things you can do in the time of today.
Tulisa: Some artists get mad at that but we just like seeing people win. No matter what way they do it or how they come up, we’re just always happy to see people winning. It’s a new generation, it’s kind of like when N-Dubz came out and some people just didn’t get it. It’s Like influencing now, it’s for that generation but that generation is then one day gonna be in charge. It’s the new world.
Chris: Is that one of the reasons you have Wes Nelson as a special guest on the tour?
Tulisa: Yes and that’s a great representation of how the game works and we support that transition and people coming up.
Dappy: And there’s people like Chunkz. But the thing is these people have been music oriented and talented from early on. Filly and Chunkz, they’re proper talented guys in the studio with melodies. Wes Nelson was talented before but they just went a different route before introducing themselves in the music world.
Tulisa: One of the reasons we’re so lucky being able to come back after 10 years is it feels so much bigger than before. The characters and the quirks we have and the na na nii’s, the internet can use that now. It’s going to be so much crazier than before.
Fazer: Everyone knows it. We’re made for Tik-Tok.
Dappy: Like I said before our brains are so much more mature now. I’ve been making music for ages, these lot have been making music for ages. I’ve been doing shows up and down for the last five years, we’re with it, we know exactly what’s happening and we’re excited to bring a new more mature trio to the world. We wanna show you what songs and what concepts we can come up with now. It’s all about connecting. I know with us three there’s so many different ways we can connect and that’s what N-Dubz is all about.
Chris: I was doing some research and I was really surprised to see you were only nominated for 1 BRIT award as a group. Do you think the music N Dubz made was looked down upon by these big award shows like the BRITs?
Fazer: To be honest with you I feel like it was the times we were in. The establishment wasn’t ready for that type of music to dominate these awards. At the time they were given BRITs to people who hadn’t done a quarter of what we did. At the time there wasn’t space in the academy for that type of music. If you look at it now it’s completely changed. There’s younger people in the academy and the music is being credited now.
Dappy: We should’ve had one before, most definitely. But guess what? They’re gonna give us one soon. If not all of us, they’re gonna give one of us an award. We will definitely get a BRIT.
Tulisa: [laughs] Now, now, now.
Dappy: one million percent, I’ve always wanted to get a BRIT!
Fazer: We’re putting it out there!